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This article is intended to inform about the challenge of nitrogen loss, as well as measures to minimise this problem. 20 years ago, the level of nitrogen applied on golf courses was significantly higher than today. The reduction is due to the increased education and knowledge, research, practical experiences on site and financial pressures to optimize inputs.
Take care of your nitrogen now!
In agriculture, as of today it is a requirement to protect nitrogen fertilizers against volatilization or leaching with inhibitors or special application methods. This regulation primarily applies to liquid fertilizers containing urea and ammonium as the main nitrogen source. To become plant available, they undergo a natural process. When urea is converted to ammonium, in an intermediate step the gas ammonia is formed and evaporates easily. Ammonium within a few days is converted to nitrate, which is taken up by the plant or easily leached out.
Since those two Nitrogen forms can be protected, we want to do everything possible to offer this additional protection to our customers. Now is the time to adapt those new technologies in addition to the reduction in nitrogen use. Very likely in the future this will become a mandatory requirement for the turfgrass industry anyway.
Urea is converted by urease, an enzyme found naturally in the soil, to NH3 (ammonia) and CO2. NH3 is a gas and can easily be lost to the atmosphere. When NH3 reacts with the soil water, it builds NH4 (ammonium) and OH– (hydroxide). The hydroxide causes the pH around the urea molecule to increase. This high pH increases the formation of even more ammonia which can vaporize, leading to the risk of more volatile (gaseous) nitrogen loss.
Urease inhibitor effect:
Urease inhibitors inhibit the urease enzyme and delay the conversion of urea to ammonium. This process allows ammonium to penetrate deep into the soil profile, where it gradually becomes available to the plant.
Ammonium is converted by nitrification soil bacteria into nitrate. Nitrate is very mobile. Large amounts of nitrate in the soil, during periods without rapid plant growth, carry the risk of nitrogen loss via leaching.
Nitrification inhibitor effect:
Nitrification inhibitors inhibit bacteria and delay the conversion of ammonium to nitrate.
Urease inhibitor and Nitrification inhibitor in combination
Combining urease and nitrification inhibitor slows down the conversion of urea, reducing the evaporation of NH3 (ammonia). and at the same time most of the nitrogen remains in ammonium form for a longer period of time.
In agriculture, ammonium thiosulphate (ATS) is added to urea fertilizers as a standard. ATS acts as a urease inhibitor, thereby avoiding the gaseous loss of ammonia into the atmosphere.
The use of ATS especially in liquid fertilizers requires that the pH of the fertilizer is balanced precisely, as ATS is pH sensitive and can be broken down at low pH levels.
Compared to other urease inhibitors, ATS has a significantly better bio-chemical environmental profile and it has been shown that microorganisms are kept active after application.
Only few other products should be added to the tank mix. They will not be stable and might degenerate during a storage of the fertilizer mixture.
Starting spring 2021 all TourTurf Liquid (FS) NK- and NPK-fertilizers contain urease- and nitrification-inhibitor, now you can take care of your nitrogen!